2020 - GULF CRISIS AND GLOBAL ENERGY MARKETS

Jean-Marie BOCKEL (France)

29 July 2020

The Gulf, like other parts of the Middle East, is both a source of friction and cooperation between Europe and the United States. This reflects both convergent and divergent interests in the region, but it is also emblematic of more enduring changes underway in the international system as a whole, including the fact that the United States is likely to shift attention away from the region to deal with other global challenges it finds more compelling over the long term. This is happening at a time when Europe is trying to bolster its economic ties to the Gulf and is potentially more directly affected when instability in the region flares up, particularly on the security front. Mounting US Iranian tensions have revealed the degree of European vulnerability to conflict in the region and a difficulty to shape outcomes.  Acts of sabotage in and around the Strait of Hormuz through which passes 20% of the oil and one quarter liquified natural gas (LNG) consumed globally, or missile attacks on critical energy infrastructure have immediate implications for European energy security, but Europe has only limited military leverage there, and continues to need its American and Gulf partners to ensure that structures are in place to reduce risk and build security. This cooperation is only possible as long as shared interests outweigh conflicting ones, and if a comprehensive transatlantic dialogue on the Gulf is continued. This is proving more difficult on both fronts, although all sides continue to recognise the need for continued engagement. 

There are many overlapping interests for the United States and Europe in the Gulf. This draft report will focus primarily on the energy dimension of those interests, but it will also consider the broader strategic context in which Gulf energy must be understood. [...]